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Location - Western Europe; Capital - Andorra la Vella; Population - 84,000; Currency - Euro

It's a 3½ hour drive from Girona to Andorra la Vella, capital of this tiny Pyrenean country. One thing that remains the same as Girona is the language; Catalan is also the mother tongue of Andorra - April 2011. And five years later I made a return journey when visiting the Pyrenees in France and Andorra - November 2016.


euro1Prior to the Euro, both the French Franc and Spanish Peseta were official currencies of Andorra.









andorranoteEuro notes aren't specific to each member state but the coinds are. This is an Andorran 1 Euro coin










andorra3The futuristic La Caldea spa complex at Escaldes-Engordany, which merges into Andorra la Vella


andorra7Depending on what you read, La Caldea is Europe's largest spa complex. It's excellent and well worth going to - Andorra la Vella





andorra14 Relax in the large bowls which stand in the indoor lagoon - Andorra la Vella














andorra15The thermal waters are cooled down from the 70°C at which they emerge to a more comfortable 32°C - La Caldea, Andorra la Vella















andorra17There's two sections to the Indo-Roman Baths, one at 36°C and the other cooled to 14°C - La Caldea, Andorra la Vella


andorra25The Pyrenees rise above the outdoor lagoon, which is complete with whirlpool - La Caldea, Andorra la Vella


andorra27The outdoor lagoon is connected to the indoor one via a water channel, so you don't even have to leave the warmth - La Caldea, Andorra la Vella













andorra34Basic entry includes access to the above plus sauna and hammam; pay extra for massages and treatments - La Caldea, Andorra la Vella



















andorra229My feet enjoy the warmth of the thermal pool as night falls, a great way to spend an early evening, especially if you've been hiking or skiing - La Caldea, Andorra la Vella


andorra37Graffiti on the banks of the Valira River near La Caldea - Andorra la Vella


andorra46Walking back from Escaldes-Engordany to Andorra la Vella proper is Placa de la Rotonda, in the commercial centre of the capital














andorra218Crossing the Gran Valira River, the largest river in Andorra - Andorra la Vella














andorra80Walk uphill, or get a lift, to the Placa del Poble - Andorra la Vella


andorra66Placa del Poble is a bit nondescript but there's some great views if you stand on a bench or two - Andorra la Vella














andorra65The Pyrenees rise above the valley below - Andorra la Vella















andorra71Close to Placa del Poble is the 11th century Sant Esteve church - Andorra la Vella


andorra75Seeing as Andorra has duty-free status it's no surprise that smokers (and drinkers) like coming here. But seriously it feels like every adult smokes! Andorra la Vella


andorra76The upper section of the capital is home to the Historic Quarter, or Barri Antic - Andorra la Vella














andorra52The 16th century Casa de la Vall (House of the Valley) in the historic quarter, is Andorra's parliament - Andorra la Vella














andorra60The Andorran flag stands inside the Casa de la Vall - Andorra la Vella


andorra63The nominal heads of state are shared between the French president and the bishop of the Spanish border town of La Seu d'Urgell - Casa de la Vall, Andorra la Vella


andorra59I say the Casa de la Vall is the Andorran parliament, but as of 2011 most duties have been transferred to the Consell General (General Council) building next door - Andorra la Vella














andorra77The Pyrenean mountains form a backdrop to the houses below - Andorra la Vella


















andorra82The capital lies at 1,013metres above sea level - Andorra la Vella


andorra83Placa Princep Benlloch has a couple of places to eat outdoors - Andorra la Vella


andorra90There's several bars and restaurants surrounding Placa Guillemo - Andorra la Vella


















andorra85Mama Maria restaurant looks great at night - Andorra la Vella














andorra216Av Meritxell is the main shopping street in Andorra la Vella. The duty-free status of the country ensures all the big brands and shops are present, though it gives Andorra an air of a massive airport terminal, albeit with a beautiful mountainous backdrop


andorra91An advert for Andorran coffee on the side of a building in Andorra la Vella


andorra231Wales made a brilliant Euro 2016 semi-final run, but it all started here with a struggling 2-1 qualification win against Andorra, on the National Stadium's artificial pitch - Andorra la Vella


andorra92A few minutes walk from the bus station is the Central Park - Andorra la Vella














andorra100I followed a steep pathway leading up the valley and was rewarded with a look down on Andorra la Vella














andorra94Notice the allotments in the foreground, growing vegetables and the like - Andorra la Vella


andorra96The Passeig del Rec del Sola is an enjoyable walk on a sunny day - Andorra la Vella


andorra101Walking back down to Andorra la Vella















andorra118Ordino is a village a few kms north of the capital


andorra117It has a collection of stonehouses - Ordino


andorra108At 1298metres it's at a slightly higher altitude than Andorra la Vella - Ordino















andorra106A stonehouse alleyway - Ordino















andorra112Mountains are never too far away in Andorra - Ordino


andorra102Sant Corneli i Sant Cebria church - Ordino


andorra121Keep going north from Ordino and you'll arrive at El Serrat














andorra120The main appeal of El Serrat outside winter are views like this. There's walking trails and a skiing area nearby.














andorra123A stream flows past one of the village's hotels, which I'm guessing are busier in the winter ski season - El Serrat


andorra242La Massana is the junction town where the road splits to Ordino/El Serrat or Arinsal/Pal














andorra245A Pyrenees horizon from Arinsal


andorra243Arinsal has its very own craft beer, brewed here at the Alpha beer factory


andorra131Another (bigger) ski resort is Soldeu














andorra127Ski lifts climb the Grandvalira snow fields, which are pretty bare at the end of April - Soldeu














andorra129Though snow capped mountains are close by - Soldeu


andorra137The villages of Canillo, El Tarter and Soldeu form the Grandvalira snow fields, the most popular in Andorra - Canillo














andorra139From Canillo I walked to Encamp via Prats, a hamlet only 5 minutes walk from Canillo


andorra140On the walking trail to Encamp you'll pass by Meritxell Sanctuary - Meritxell


andorra143The walking trail from Canillo to Encamp runs high above the main road














andorra146More great views of the valleys of Andorra, this one hosting the town of Encamp


andorra185A brighter 2016 photo of the above - Encamp


andorra145An advert for El Caldea at the entrance to Encamp


andorra150Stonehouses in Encamp














andorra189In my 2016 trip I hiked uphill from Encamp to Lake Engolasters


andorra197It's a dammed lake at 1,615m used for generating hydrolectric power - Lake Engolasters


andorra203Walking downhill from the lake to the village of Engolasters, set above the valley of Andorra














andorra204The Church of Sant Miquel d'Engolasters, built around the 12th century - Engolasters














andorra209I hoped for a taxi to the capital but glad I didn't find one, as I'd have missed these amazing views of Andorra la Vella nestled in the valley, surrounded by Pyrenean peaks - Engolasters to Andorra la Vella














andorra167A painted gate in Sant Julia de Loria



andorra168Sant Julia de Loria is a town south west of Andorra la Vella, on the road to Spain


andorra169The main reason to head for Sant Julia de Loria is a visit to Naturlandia



















andorra165Naturlandia is 8 or 9kms from Sant Julia de Loria, via a steep winding road














andorra152Naturlandia has forest trails, archery, cross-country skiing, skating rink, mushing, quad bikes, paintball and - above all - the brilliant Tobotronc



At 5.3kms, Tobotronc is the world's longest alpine coaster. It's called a toboggan run but runs on steel rails. The best thing is you control the speed, up to 40kph! Naturlandia



andorra157The difference in altitude between top and bottom is around 400metres. If you start at the bottom, steel cables pull you to the top - Tobotronc, Naturlandia













andorra161This photo gives an idea of the steepness of the ascent - Naturlandia















andorra159The tracks leading down. The main rules on the way down are: Don't stop and don't hit the person in front! In case you're wondering each 'sledge' has a seatbelt and brake - Tobotronc, Naturlandia


andorra162The view from the top of Tobotronc, which must be around 2,500metres altitude. I wanted to take a photo on the way down but didn't really get the time.. Tobotronc, Naturlandia


andorra164Scenery on the way downhill from Naturlandia to Sant Julia de Loria














andorra238The Church of Santa Coloma was built in the 8th/9th century, with the tower added in the 12th century - Santa Coloma


andorra180On the eastern border with France, at 2000m altitude, is Pas de la Casa














andorra184It's a popular ski resort in the winter, and at other times it's swamped with French day-trippers buying duty-free - Pas de la Casa














andorra177The town is literally built to the border - the stream forms the divide between France on the left and Andorra on the right - Pas de la Casa


andorra176The welcome signs to Andorra when arriving from France - Pas de la Casa


france400The bus from Andorra la Vella to Toulouse left very early in the morning (05:00)














france1301The nearest French train station to Andorra is L'Hospitalet Pres de l'Andorre, a 3hr journey from Toulouse and about 12km from Pas de la Casa













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LINKS - tourist board - buses to Andorra including Toulouse & Barcelona - other international buses


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